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Connecticut will erase thousands of low-level cannabis possession convictions next year

Marijuana grows in the home of two medical marijuana patients in Medford, Ore.
Jeff Barnard
Marijuana grows in the home of two medical marijuana patients.

More than 44,000 people convicted of cannabis possession are set to have their records fully or partially erased on January 1, when Connecticut’s new clean slate law takes effect.

Connecticut’s clean slate law is part of the state’s legalization of recreational cannabis last year. Under the new law, convictions for possession of less than four ounces of cannabis between January 2000 and September 2015 are automatically erased.

Governor Ned Lamont said the erasure of other misdemeanors such as possession with intent to sell could take longer.

“Some of the slightly more complicated ones take a little more definition," Lamont said. "It requires a database to make sure that’s working so we couldn’t get that done overnight. But I believe it will be done over the first half of this coming year.”

The ACLU of Connecticut, Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut (CONECT) and other justice reform groups have criticized the delay. They say as many as 300,000 residents might be affected and it has the potential of undermining the racial and economic justice impact of the new law.

This is devastating for people who had anticipated they would have had their records expunged by January 1, said state Senator Gary Winfield, co-chair of the state judiciary committee.

“Potentially meaning that they won't have jobs that they thought they would have. They might have issues with housing and other accommodation,” Winfield said.

Winfield and Steven Stafstrom, the House co-chair of judiciary, joined the advocates for a news conference in New Haven.

They acknowledged that the state had to build a new system to track criminal convictions but said they are concerned that the majority of expungements will not begin until the second half of 2023.

As WSHU Public Radio’s award-winning senior political reporter, Ebong Udoma draws on his extensive tenure to delve deep into state politics during a major election year.